An interview with az

The software draws people but the community keeps them. Many posters regularly use different Linux distributions — or even other OSes — over Ubuntu, but stay in the Ubuntu Forums because of the community that has evolved around it. az has been a member since the earliest days (he’s No. 844, if you’re counting) and is one of the first people I can remember answering my questions. An Ubuntu member and the driving force behind Ubuntu Rescue Remix, he still finds time to post on a daily basis, helping others and in turn, helping the community grow.

Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real” life — name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.

az’s avatarMy name is Andrew Zajac, I was born in 1971 and I live in Kingston, Ontario. I lived my whole life in beautiful Montéal, Québec, until I moved here just over a year ago.

I am a Clinical Perfusionist; I run the heart-lung machine during cardiac surgery and perform autologous blood salvage during other kinds of surgical cases where there is a lot of bleeding. I also operate a few other life-support devices.

I am married and have two daughters.

My main hobby is the Ubuntu Rescue Remix, a data recovery toolkit. I have also started a data recovery business that is proving to be successful.

It’s sooo satisfying to recover files for a client who otherwise would never see their data again. You can download mp3 again and you can recreate text documents, but you can’t replace things like baby pictures.

When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?

When I was a teenager, I remember watching TV and seeing Jim Butterfield explain how to make a Commodore 64 do amazing things. It wasn’t long before we had one. A little while later, my brother bought the Commodore 64 programmer’s reference guide, a book which included all the specs to the thing as well as details of all the machine language functions. Our spare time was spent programming in 8-bit assembly language that summer.

I became interested in Linux many years later when a computer my father-in-law bought my wife and I went on the fritz, and the tech support guy suggested we run Linux instead of Windows. Being on dial-up internet service, I went out to the store and bought a copy of Corel Linux 1.0.

Being on dial-up internet service and the proud owner of a winmodem (a software modem that only works in Windows), I was faced with a challenge. I probably would not have gotten so passionate about Software Freedom if it weren’t for that. A software modem is supposed to be superior to a hardware modem because the software can be upgraded, meaning you can get new and better functionality from your modem without having to get a new one.

In real life, it just means that you are subject to whatever cooperation the distributer is willing to give you. It didn’t take long for me to find a whole community of people who felt my pain and were doing something productive about it. One of the first discussions about software freedom I remember reading pertained to what Benjamin Mako Hill wrote about antifeatures.

I became interested in Ubuntu one week in 2004 when there were more posts on about Ubuntu than Debian.

When did you become involved in the forums? What’s your role there?

I became a member of the forums in October 2004. I am a former staff member and I read and post as often as I can.

Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?

Yes, I am an Ubuntu member. I contribute by helping on the forums. Also, I will soon have some Ubuntu Rescue Remix packages in my Launchpad PPA.

What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?

I pretty much only use Ubuntu today.

I use Midnight Commander and Inkscape a lot.

My favorite application has got to be GNU ddrescue. It’s is a data recovery tool. It copies data from one file or block device (hard disc, cdrom, etc) to another, trying hard to rescue data in case of read errors.

Drupal also rocks!

My lease favorite software is Evolution or any other email client. Webmail is a lot more useful.

What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?

I am regularly blown away by how fast Ubuntu and free/libre software is gaining momentum. Specific to the forums, I am impressed at how much of the community “gets” Software Freedom. It used to be that a distro that was as user-friendly as Ubuntu attracted users only because of the zero cost and not because of the other advantages Software Freedom has to offer.

Lots of people use Ubuntu because it’s great software that doesn’t cost anything, but many others chose it because they know they can rely on its community to keep the software strong and because they feel empowered by free/libre software. The way those topics are handled on the forums makes Software Freedom a lot less confusing as it used to be.

Other than that, I don’t have a fondest/worst moment per se.

What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?

I think it’s all about selection. Not everyone should migrate to Ubuntu or any free/libre software just for the sake of migrating. But when it’s appropriate, Ubuntu is an excellent choice and I have had a lot of success in those cases.

What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?

Keep scaling nicely. As the community grows, the project still stays on track.

I would like to see the hardware vendors embrace GNU/Linux more and more. I really think Canonical has a good, healthy balance between its goals as a company and Ubuntu’s goals as a project. Canonical is doing the right thing in being the corporate face of a Free Software project. I hope that relationship stays on track.

If you really want to know what my pie-in-the-sky dreams would be, it would be awesome for there to be some sort of law put into place which would prohibit software from doing something unwanted, like spy on you; a law that would oblige software vendors to show you the code. That would effectively put an end to binary-only software and all the misery that it causes to computer users/owners.

Users would still have the choice to use binary-only software, but they would have to sign a waiver, rather than an EULA to use the software.

Basically, I would wish for Software Freedom to become law. Hey! You asked!

If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

If you needed help setting up your Windows computer, you will need help setting up your Ubuntu computer. It’s the same.

Use it for a week and you’ll wonder how you ever tolerated needing anti-malware software like anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall. I constantly ask myself, “How do people live like that?”, “Why does a brand new computer today run slower than a two year old computer?”

It probably won’t be a hassle to set up, but if it is, it’s worth it.

Keep an eye on the Ubuntu Rescue Remix pages if you want to monitor the work az does, or take a look at his home page. For a better rundown on his participation within Ubuntu proper, read his profile and Launchpad pages. For more interviews with community and staff members, read Nine simple questions.


10 thoughts on “An interview with az

  1. Pingback: Nine simple questions « Motho ke motho ka botho

  2. matt

    The link to the C64 reference guide was a nice treat. Really makes me wonder what I’d have accomplished by now if I owned a copy of that back in the day…

  3. Dr Small

    Great interview… and I liked his picture in there! I always pictured him as Captain Kirk 😉

    Thanks for another interview 🙂

  4. Pingback: Ubuntu Rescue Remix «

  5. KevDog

    Never used the data recovery process tool. I might start or at least try to figure out how to use it. Az — I’m a big fan!

  6. Pingback: Ubuntu Look » Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter #79

  7. Pingback: Nicoz » Lettre Hebdomadaire Ubuntu n°79

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